Even as we enter 2017, crossing the Bali Strait by ferry from Ketapang to Gilimanuk is still a true coming of age story and a rite of passage for many backpackers.
For many backpackers, crossing the Bali Strait between Java and Bali is the main way of reaching “paradise” on the Island of the Gods. While some people may take the more expensive and direct option of flying to Bali (usually from Surabaya or even as far back as Jakarta), the ferry is a more authentic experience. On the Java side, the port at Ketapang is very convenient was there’s a bus station and train station nearby, which have comprehensive services to other destinations around the island, such as Probolinggo (for Mount Bromo), Yogyakarta, Malang, and Bandung, as well as the nation’s capital.
Ferries and boat travel in Indonesia do not have a great reputation, with many boats dirty, over-crowded and sometimes even unsafe with untrained crews. However, 9 times of out 10, the ferry you will be using to cross from Ketapang in Java to Gilimanuk in Bali will be perfectly safe (although still crowded). As of summer 2015, the price of the one way “cruise” across the Bali Strait is 7,500 Rupiah for adults and 5,500 Rupiah for kids. Transport is permitted on these boats, and if you are planning to bring along a moped, you can expect to cough up another 19,000 Rupiah (although just an extra 8,000 for a regular push bike).
The crossing from Java to Bali takes only 25 minutes, although this does not include the time taken for loading and unloading the cars and small amounts of cargo. The ferries run 24 hours per day and depart every 20-30 minutes. Sometimes in stormy weather, there may be some cancellations, so it is advisable to always be on the lookout.
When you are in Bali, the port is at Gilimanuk, which is a very unspectacular town, with nothing at all to offer the tourists. The nearest town of interest would be Lovina along the north coast, but most people will want to head south to the spiritual heart of Bali in Ubud, or even farther south to places like Kuta and Nusa Dua for the main beaches!
There are no trains in Bali, so bemos (small minibuses) or private taxis are your only choices. This journey can be quite expensive by taxi (up to 800,000 Rupiah or £40), but you can almost always negotiate to knock off 30% at least.
Remember there’s a time difference of +1hours between Java and Bali – but make sure you enjoy yourself when you get there!
Page last updated January 16, 2017. Please report any dead links.